The crucial issue to be decided under § 2033 is whether or not the value of an action for wrongful death is "property . . . of the decedent at the time of his death."
Conn. Bank & Trust Co. v. United States
Decedent was struck and killed by a semi-truck. His executor commenced wrongful death actions which were settled for $320,000. This money was held for distribution to his beneficiaries not included in the estate for estate tax purposes. However, the Commissioner said it should have been.
District court held that the wrongful death recoveries were property held by decedents at the time of their deaths, and was therefore part of the estate to be taxed.
Reversed and remanded.
Simple logic mandates the conclusion that an action for wrongful death cannot exist until a decedent has died, at which point, he is no longer a person capable of owning any property interests.
Wrongful death proceeds are not property of the decedent at the time of his death.